Some people think of the in-store experience as vastly different from shopping online or on mobile. Digital devices provide less opportunities for real-time feedback on purchases, but that is counteracted with heaps of convenience.
Retailers gazing at these shopping processes as two different entities may find themselves at a severe disadvantage, however, as consumer demand for omnichannel strategies crests higher to its peak. Mobile engagement can be – and should be – an integral part of in-store shopping, particularly where employees are concerned.
Gone are the days of being unable to answer a customer’s question or being unsure of exact inventory. Smartphones have paved the way for a wealth of knowledge to easily make its way into associates’ hands, a notion that has already gained traction among a slew of retailers. Brands including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Lilly Pulitzer, and JCPenney have steadily been transforming their in-store employees into mobile ambassadors – and consumers are loving it.
Personalized transactions: While some retailers may balk at the idea of equipping in-store employees with handheld devices, a plethora of brands, including Lilly Pulitzer, are finding that mobile’s ability to become a strong point-of-sale solution far outweighs the cons. Managers who choose to bestow associates with tablets or smartphones typically find that the tactic works best when only branded content is allowed on the devices. Apparel marketer Lilly Pulitzer is leveraging in-store tablets to give employees direct access to inventory numbers and payment options, a strategy that has been invaluable in times of peak traffic, such as the holidays. If consumers are intimidated by long lines at the cash registers, employees can take their tablets and fashion an impromptu checkout lane, thanks to the devices’ ability to provide 360-degree transaction views to shoppers.
Therefore, associates can complete transactions from any spot on the store floor, using a myriad of payment methods such as Apple Pay and NFC. Consumers who experience seamless checkouts may later be inspired to download the resortwear brand’s iOS app, where they can make purchases with a few taps of a finger. Even better – individuals who perhaps were not as familiar with the speediness and convenience that mobile checkout offers could be spurred to make their own at-home forays into the world of digital commerce.
Promoting shipping options: JCPenney is roping in its employees to spread the word about in-store pickup, which enables shoppers to purchase items through its mobile app or site and have the products shipped free of charge to their nearest store location. The retailer saw a small spike in holiday sales last season, bolstered in part by growing adoption of in-store pickup. However, its in-store employees are the real VIPs in making this solution catch fire. If customers cannot find a desired product size or style on the floor, JCPenney employees can encourage them to locate the item on mobile and input their payment information to receive free shipping. Then, the store will alert the shoppers when the order is ready for pickup, and they may drop by to retrieve it at their leisure.
A growing number of shipping options are available for consumers with special requests – many, if not all, of which can be accessed via smartphones. It is up to the retail associates to take ownership of their status as mobile ambassadors and alert shoppers of the additional amenities available within the store app or on the mobile site.
Mobile aisle navigators: Dick’s Sporting Goods has also waded into the strategy of tapping mobile devices as in-store navigators by placing company-owned smartphones in the hands of its associates. The mobile-equipped employees are encouraged to help consumers easily locate product aisles and find their way around the store. Additionally, if a customer has a question regarding the availability of a specific item, the associate may consult his or her smartphone to check immediate inventory and place a mobile order if the product is not available at that particular location. Shoppers can then have those orders shipped directly to their homes, at no extra fee.
Integrating these types of solutions improves efficiency, streamlines transactions, and adds a layer of retail expertise onto in-store associates. Although millennials may be quick to make purchases via mobile, a slew of consumers in other demographics still need a bit of guidance – and an extra push – to further explore their favorite brand’s app or mobile site. YouTube tutorials on mobile checkouts might not be up everyone’s alley, but a transformative in-store experience with a mobile-equipped staff member could be the action that nudges a tried-and-true bricks-and-mortar shopper into becoming an even more valuable omnichannel shopper.
NewStore recently conducted first-hand research within high-end retailers' brick-and-mortar stores. Check out the infographic to see what else we learned about this mobile-deprived workforce.